An interesting debate prior to MCA elections

The hype involved in the biennial elections of the Mumbai Cricket Association is phenomenal

Waleed Hussain
The hype involved in the biennial elections of the Mumbai Cricket Association is phenomenal. The entry of NCP leader Sharad Pawar as a candidate for the presidentship has seen the elections make the front pages of numerous city eveningers.
In keeping with the hype, the Sports Journalists Association of Mumbai organised a debate at the Garware Club House on Monday. The association invited the three contesting groups in the MCA elections to express their plans and views for the forthcoming elections to be held on Friday.
Journalists Chandrakant Sant and G Vishwanath were the moderators in the event as the representatives of each group were seated on the dias and spoke of their plans for the upliftment of Mumbai cricket as and when they get elected.
Ratnakar Shetty represented the Bal Mahaddalkar group, Pravin Barve spoke on behalf of the Manohar Joshi group and Shripad Halve represented the Sharad Pawar panel.
Each representative was given an equal opportunity to express their plans and neither of the two members on the dias were allowed to criticise any comment of the speaker.
The emphasis of all the three groups rotated around the development of the maidans and to take immediate steps for the upliftment of junior cricket in Mumbai. All the three groups had similar plans for the development of junior cricket. They mentioned the need to have nodal coaching centres at five or six places in and around Mumbai. The tentative areas looked upon by the groups are Boisar, Vasai, Dombivili, Thane-Bhiwandi and two centres in Navi Mumbai.
An interesting point of view was that the Pawar group claimed they would hire professional expertise to set up a Total Development Programme for the juniors, whereas the Mahaddalkar group is looking to set up an expert panel of cricketers who will look after the appointment of coaches, the junior selectors and keep an eye on the performances in junior level tournaments in Mumbai.
They unanimously agreed on the need to provide semi-permanent structures in the maidans and the need to resolve the matter at the earliest. Barve and Shetty also shared their views for the need to resurrect a bowling academy in Mumbai in the next two years.
The other relevant common issue spoken by the groups was the need to standardise the coaching centres and the coaches in Mumbai. Shetty said that by the time a boy plays cricket for his school, he has a school coach, then in college he has another coach, when he represents a club, he has another coach there. Often the suggestions are contrary in nature and the player gets confused at an early stage of his career. "There are too many coaches saying too many things to the youngster which results in his performance deteriorating." It was agreed upon by members of the other groups that the matter was important enough to be put on their priority list too.
Shetty took the initiative of laying down his views to the members of the media present at the function. Speaking candidly, Shetty admitted that the last year had been a very testing time for him as joint secretary of the MCA. "There were certain goals that we had set but were unable to achieve them completely." He agreed that the MCA elections were always marred by petty politics but he stated, "All the politics ends after the elections and thereafter cricket activities prevail."
Despite being informed to avoid any critical comments on the speaker, Shripad Halbe disagreed with Shetty's view. "There is a lot of electioneering even after the elections are over. The differences spill over to the entire functioning of the Association."
The one major factor that differentiated the three groups was that pertaining to the unresolved issue with the Garware Club House. Halbe confidently claimed that the issue could be easily resolved if the Presidentship of the MCA was to be handled by Sharad Pawar who is also the Chairman of the Garware Club House. "The MCA being awarded the status of the parent body and the Garware Club being its subsidiary, all property will be in the name of the MCA."
The other priorities of the Pawar panel are to provide a gymnasium for the players, providing a dual insurance scheme both on the field and off the field for players and resolving the issue of the MCA indoor school of cricket.
The Manohar Joshi representative Pravin Barve was in a confident mood. He spoke of his abilities to improve the infrastructures of the grounds. He gave an example of his contribution to the MIG ground and stated that it was due to his efforts that the ground had gained first class status with the recent Ranji Trophy match between Mumbai and Baroda held at the venue. He mentioned that the indoor school of cricket was his dream and his efforts towards achieving the target would be fruitful in the near future.
Barve mentioned that his group had the most qualified candidates for the positions. He brushed aside any speculation saying, "I don't speak more, I believe in working more."
The members of the media had valid queries that left the representatives speechless on occasions. Shetty was the most vocal as he went about answering all the questions without blinking an eyelid. He was in the line of fire as a journalist questioned him on the poor performance of the Mumbai Ranji team in the last two seasons. Shetty answered with confidence stating, "The working of the Association cannot be linked to the performance of the team on the field. The association and its members were blamed when Mumbai lost to Uttar Pradesh in the semi-finals a few seasons back but no one applauded the working committee this season, when Mumbai qualified for the Wills Trophy unbeaten in the West Zone Ranji One Day tournament."
Shetty agreed that Mumbai lacks in its bench strength but he failed to accept that the standard of Mumbai cricket has deteriorated. "If ten years ago, seven players from Mumbai were in the Indian team, it is not necessary that if there are less players now, the standard has deteriorated. The other associations have also made progress and deserving players are given the chance to play for their country." he added.